Website blocking is without a doubt one of the favorite anti-piracy tools of the entertainment industries.
Alleged ‘pirate’ sites have been blocked by ISPs in every continent except Antarctica and more countries are added to the list every year.
A relatively recent trend is to block so-called stream-ripping sites. These sites don’t necessarily store or link to any infringing material. Instead, they allow users to download audio and video from YouTube and other public streaming services.
The legality of these sites open to debate but several courts have already approved various blocking requests. Last fall, this also happened in Brazil, where ISPs were ordered to block over a dozen sites including Yout.com, Flvto.biz, Y2mate.com, and H2converter.net.
Yout.com Lawyers Up
Most sites simply took their losses and moved on, but Yout.com operator Johnathan Nader is not one of them. Nader previously appealed a site-blocking order in Denmark and in the US he sued the RIAA to clarify that his website is legal.
After discovering the Brazilian blockade Yout.com’s operator hired the law firm Demarest to help him find what’s going on. Initially, it wasn’t clear who was behind the blocking efforts. The lawyers reached out to the ISPs in question to find out more, without result.
Months went by without any progress and eventually it was the RIAA that helped to connect the dots. The music group referred to the Brazilian blocking order in the US lawsuit, which helped track down the case that was initially kept out of the public eye.
‘Secret’ Criminal Investigation
The information collected by the lawyers revealed that the Brazilian music group APDIF submitted a request for a criminal investigation last year. This was followed up by the Public Prosecutor’s Office which requested a 180-day block of Yout.com and the other sites while the matter was being investigated.
When Yout.com’s lawyers found out they prepared to file a defense arguing that the company’s activities are not breaking any laws. Around the same time the 180-day window ended, so a request to lift the blockade was made as well.
The Public Prosecutors Office’s replied to Yout’s arguments and argued that it was clear that the site is facilitating copyright infringement by circumventing DRM protections. The authorities informed the court that they were still investigating the matter, and requested a 180-day extension of the blocking efforts.
Court Lifts Blockades
This week week, the São Paulo Criminal Court ruled on the matter, deciding that the ISP blockades should end. Another extension is not warranted, the Court argued, as the Public Prosecutor’s Office didn’t file any criminal charges against Yout or the other sites.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office was ordered to notify the ISPs about this decision within 48 hours, which will effectively end the blocking efforts. Soon after, the Public Prosecutor’s Office informed the court that it complied with the order.
For now, this means that all popular stream-rippers will be openly accessible again in Brazil. This isn’t just good news for Yout.com but also for its competitors, which are unblocked as well.
One Major Caveat
This is good news for the site operators, but there is a major caveat. The Public Prosecutor’s Office may very well continue its investigation, so there is a possibility that criminal charges will be announced in the future.
Yout’s law firm Demarest confirms that the criminal threat isn’t over yet. However, the firm is confident that its client is acting within the boundaries of the law.
“We are confident that Yout’s activities cannot be included in the same category of conduct attributed to other website owners, as its tool is lawful and its usage falls within the very exceptions provided by copyright law,” Yout’s legal team inform us.
A copy of the São Paulo Criminal Court’s order is available here (pdf)